If I had to choose one beauty product to take to a desert island, (and I sort of now live on a Desert Island Beach @ Sanara Tulum) it would be, without doubt, coconut oil. Having said that, I am sure there would be coconuts on said desert island, in which case I would just make my own coconut oil!
Coconut oil has so many diverse uses, many of which involve its use in cooking, or for consumption, but this post is dedicated to the benefits and pleasures of using coconut oil in your beauty or personal care routine.
It’s important to note here that not any old coconut oil will do. If you are going to ingest it, or slather it onto your body, then you want to make sure that the coconut oil you choose is virgin, organic, cold-pressed oil. Look for the term ANH – absolutely no heat – on the description or packaging as you will know that the oil you are using is raw and as pure as possible. In addition, I always choose fair trade coconut oil, knowing that my purchase is helping to sustain local farmers.
If you are interested, here is a video of a small coconut oil production line. And you can even make your own coconut oil at home! I will write this up on another post.
Mass produced, commercial coconut oil can be contaminated during the processing by generator or other fumes, and heat can destroy some of its healing properties. I once opened up a tub of oil which smelt dreadful and had to be thrown away. It was obvious that the oil had been contaminated somewhere along the process, and though I won’t mention brands, I stayed clear of any oils in plastic tubs after that. I now use Tiana Organic Coconut Oil and it’s the best I’ve tried, as well as being packaged in a glass jar so no plastic to feel guilty about.
The smell of coconut oil should be gentle and not overpowering, the texture smooth and creamy. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but above 76°F (24°C) it will liquify. This is nothing to worry about and it will become hard again once it cools. It’s definitely worth noting though that if you decide to decant some oil into a smaller pot for travelling, you should ensure that said pot will not leak with liquid inside. I found this out on a trip to Tunisia and had fun trying to clean off coconut oil from my hairbrush, other bottles, and the inside of my washbag! In fact, even if you don’t go to a hot country, planes can get quite warm in the hold so always make sure you have it wrapped up, or in a suitable container.
Coconut oil has been used forever by Asian women as a staple item (if not the only item) in beauty and personal care routines and you have to admit, Asian women’s skin always looks amazing! It is a pure, sustainable, product, and has antibacterial, and antifungal properties. If you want to read more, the Coconut Research Centre is a great resource.
Back to the uses of coconut oil. Where do I start?!
Well, here is a list of how I use it (this is going to be a LONG post!):
Straight out of the bath or shower onto damp skin. Slather it on – literally, slather! Smells gorgeous and will give your skin a lovely sheen. I find that sometimes coconut oil on its own is not enough for my shins which get very dry – so on this area I add some jojoba oil and make sure that my skin is really damp, or mist spray with water first (to lock in moisture) before massaging in well.
Can prevent, or reduce the appearance of stretch marks/scars – so useful during pregnancy.
Eye make up remover
Put a dab on a small piece of cotton wool (or face cloth – I use bamboo cloths), or directly around the eyes. Then wipe off. As with any lotion or cream. be careful not to get in the eyes as it can sting a little though there is no harm.
This technique is known as the ‘oil cleansing method’ and though you might be shocked at the idea of using oil to clean your face, it really, really works! I don’t use this very often as water on a bamboo face cloth is really all I ever need, but if I’ve had a lot of make up on, or been out somewhere very polluted then I might do a quick oil cleanse. Different skin types react differently though so you would need to test it out to see if it works for you. A note about breakouts: if you find you breakout in pimples or spots after using this method, don’t give up immediately – the coconut oil can result in a detox effect, so try to give it some time.
Although I often use Argan oil as a daily face moisturiser, especially under make up, I use coconut oil for my night time application. As with the cleanser option, you need to see what works best for your skin type, environment etc.
Just slick over the lips as often as you like. I carry a small pot with me at all times. Great for cracked/chapped lips, and if you suffer from cold sores, frequently applying a layer of oil over the affected area can really help (mix with honey to make a more ‘sticky’ solution and honey, especially raw, has antibacterial qualities so aids with the healing).
Shaving cream replacement
There’s no need to shave your legs, underarms, or anywhere else you choose, with shaving foam, or soap. Coconut oil works wonders and keeps your skin soft and smooth at the same time. Men can replace shaving foam with coconut oil also – my partner is on an enforced test at the moment as I won’t let him buy another can of foam!
It is also lovely as an after shave balm.
As a pre-wash hair/scalp treatment, coat with coconut oil, massage in, cover with a towel, or shower cap (or nothing if you don’t want to look too silly) and leave for an hour, or overnight if you can. Then wash off – you might need several shampoos to get all the oil out.
As a post-wash conditioner onto dry hair, take a tiny dab of oil, rub between your hands and then gently run your fingers along the ends of your hair. Don’t touch the roots! If you have curly hair you can just scrunch it in.
This treatment can help with dandruff or dry, itchy scalps.
Hand & nail cream
As with the body moisturiser, applying coconut oil to damp hands will moisturise well. Rub into nails too. You can do this before you go to bed, slather on the oil and then wear cotton gloves overnight, for a deep moisturise.
Take a dollop of coconut oil and add to your bath. You can add a couple of drops of essential oils if you wish too. I use this in my youngest son’s bath as he has dry skin, but also has a very strong gag-reflex and gags as soon as I put anything on him! He doesn’t notice it in the bath. Great for eczema and psoriasis sufferers.
Now I haven’t found much online about other people actually washing with coconut oil, but this works on the same principle as using the petroleum based emollients that doctors prescribe for people with eczema/psoriasis. I find that washing with a dollop of coconut oil works very well for me most of the time as a soap substitute. If I’m particularly dirty or stinky then I’ll wash and exfoliate with Rhassoul clay or hemp oil soap.
Coconut oil is a fantastic base or addition for homemade toothpaste.
I tried oil pulling for the first time last night. Once I’ve done it for a while I will write a post. It’s basically an Ayurvedic technique which involves ‘pulling’ oil backwards and forwards through your teeth and is meant to remove debris, bacteria, and also detox the whole body.
(Here’s the post on oil pulling).
Cure for yeast infections (one for the girls)
Slather on to the affected area – literally, all over, into all nooks and crannies. I do this at any sign of a problem, and it goes within a day. Because of its antifungal properties, the coconut oil kills the overgrowth of yeast.
I don’t suffer terribly from this issue though so would be interested to hear from others with persistent yeast infections and whether this works for you.
For other fungal infections of the skin, the same applies. Just apply frequently. You can’t overdose.
For badly cracked heels, soften first by soaking, and remove excess skin with a pumice stone or file. Then apply a coating of coconut oil and wrap up the feet in a towel or cotton socks and leave on for as long as possible. You can also massage oil into the heels both morning and evening.
To heal cuts/scrapes/sores/burns
Apply the oil directly onto the wound just as you would apply an antibacterial cream. I have heard that it’s great for bruises too but haven’t tested yet. In my household we’ve found that coconut oil can soothe burns almost better than fresh aloe vera.
Warm up first in your hands, then apply. Apparently great for sore muscles, and I have read that it’s fantastic as a lovey dovey, lubricant!
Coconut oil can also be used as a deodorant, especially mixed with a little bit of bicarbonate of soda (or arrowroot or even cornstarch). I will use plain coconut oil as a mild deodorant if I’m not planning any strenuous work but if I need something stronger I will use my volcanic alum crystal.
It sounds odd, but coconut oil is known to actually protect the skin in the sun and is used all over Asia for this purpose. I’m not making any claims as to sun protection levels or whether it will work for you. I tried it, and love it. I have also read that it can help to build up a deeper, longer-lasting tan. But that’s up to you also – whether you think being in the sun is good or bad. For me, the sun is vital for my health and feeling good, but I don’t overdo it.
Having said that, if I am in a very hot climate, or out in strong sun with no way of avoiding lengthy exposure (on a boat, on a beach) then I will use an additional natural suncream (such as Alba Botanicals), particularly on my face and parts of my body that burn more easily. Moderation of sun exposure is key for using coconut oil as a sun screen.
As an aftersun treatment, coconut oil is wonderfully soothing.
Treatment of eczema/psoriasis/keratosis pilaris
I can only say here that coconut oil has significantly helped me with eczema flare ups, and having suffered from keratosis pilaris (bumpy skin on backs of upper arms/legs) for many years, now this is a thing of the past. Psoriasis sufferers may find that it benefits them too.
To lengthen/thicken eyelashes
Just by rubbing the tiniest dab of coconut oil over your eyelashes, you may find that this helps to thicken and lengthen lashes. I’ve had great success with this. Be careful not to put too much on as it can sting a little and make your eyes water if it enters the eye.
To heal minor eye infections or styes
Due to its antibacterial/fungal properties, coconut oil can be used carefully around the eye, and even diluted with boiled, cooled water to create a liquid that can be dropped into the eye. Do be careful with anything around the eyes and use your own judgement if you wish to try it. I find that coconut oil does sting if it gets in my eye, or if I have used it in this way, but the watering actually helps to clear my eyes out. They can be cloudy for a little while also so I would only do this if I was going to bed or staying in the house.
You can probably tell by now that I must go through an awful lot of coconut oil, and why I couldn’t live without it! If you know me, see if you notice that I permanently smell of coconuts!
Other uses for coconut oil that I haven’t tried yet:
I have read that coconut oil, mixed with a few drops of peppermint, works well as an insect repellent. I will try this the next time I am outside in the evening (which based on how dire the British weather is this summer, might not be this year!)
Insect bite relief
Again, I need to be bitten to prove this theory!
Fortunately I haven’t had to try this yet, but will try it if we get an infestation!
Nappy rash ointment
As with yeast infections, coconut oil can prevent/heal nappy rash in babies. My two are way past this stage now so I can’t try – but if I would have known then, believe me, I would have!
Much has been written about coconut oil as a cure for acne. I can’t give a personal review for this but would be interested to hear other people’s experiences.
There’s a great post on Crunchy Betty which may have some more ideas on uses. And there are countless other uses for coconut oil around the home, for natural healing/health, and cooking, which I’ll cover in other posts as this is now getting ridiculously long!